How change management helps you to stay agile in your project management

Posted by David Miller


Being agile in a project is not just about using an agile project management methodology.  It is about ensuring that projects can cope with change in the organization.  This change can be in resources, in strategic priorities, in market needs.  Just as change management helps organizations stay agile, a change management approach can help your projects stay agile.

Having an agile project organization is more than an agile project methodology

In the days when organizations and industries were slower to change, enforcing strict controls around project execution and locking in scope right up front seemed reasonable.  In today’s world we have come to expect that rapid and often unforeseen changes will impact business, often making a star project miss the mark or become redundant.

To cope with this changing nature of business, more and more projects are using agile project management methodologies which allow flexibility in scope while still having the right level of project management control on resources, time and cost.

These methodologies focus on the structure of the project. A good project management methodology also focuses on risk and stakeholder management.

Change management focuses on the human element of a project.  An integrated project management and change management plan considers events, timelines and the human process of change itself, ensuring the organization is ready to accept and embrace the changes brought about by a project.


Incorporating change management into how your organization executes projects ensures the human side of implementation is considered, leading to successful project management and successful project implementation.


Coping with, and thriving in, ambiguity has become a core organizational skill

When your future state is uncertain or likely to change then integrating change management within your projects becomes even more important; allowing your organization cope with an ambiguous outcome.

Resistance to becoming more agile is fundamentally not about what project methodology you use but rather the resistance within the people in your organization to act and think in a more agile manner.

A change management approach can be used by your projects to train your organization to cope with, and even expect, that the end result of a project may not be 100% clear cut from the beginning. 

This thinking must be ingrained in the project teams and the project manager, but also the sponsor, the board, the training team, and just as importantly, those employees directly impacted by the project’s outcome: system users, process users, internal customers and supporting functions. 

By building a change management approach into the very nature of how your organization executes projects you are enabling your organization to effectively manage change that not only comes as a result of a project, but to also successfully manage change that impacts on a project. 


Use your change management methodology to increase resilience

Resilient people are more adaptable to change.  Those with high resilience can bounce back quickly after change.  They tend to be able to get back in control of a situation after unexpected change, to quickly understand and manage the impact to them and their work, and cope with multiple changes better than those people with low resilience. 

To increase your organization’s ability to be agile, you need to increase the levels of resilience in your organization.  To increase the ability for your projects to be agile ensure that your key project leads and team members have reasonably high levels of resilience.


Enterprise change management enables agility in projects

Use your change management capability to change the expectation that projects are always clearly defined and never change through their lifecycle.

Initially, focus on your project organization, then your key sponsors and business owners.  Train these key players in resilience and managing in uncertainty.  Once you embed the key skills and knowledge into your projects teams and their direct business counterparts, each project will have the skills and knowledge to manage the expectations of the broader user and business community.

Incorporating an end-to-end, top down lead approach to change management ensures that the approach to thinking and acting agile within your project management teams is consistent and becomes the underlying nature of how you do projects.

To read more on how to incorporate a change management methodology into your project methodology download our white paper: How Change Management improves your Project Management.

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Tags: how to select a change management methodology, Project management control, successful project management, Agile project management, Agility

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